Queue Jumpers, Dead Hookers and Savages
Queue Jumpers, Dead Hookers and Savages; The real faceless men and women of Australian Politics.
“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. (Yes)”
The healing power in the truth of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s words was not just in their wisdom, not just in their moral authority but because they were delivered by a man who was “the other” of his time. The Civil rights movement in the United States was largely centred around abolishing public and private acts of discrimination against Black People. The Jim Crow laws of the South were designed to ensure despite the confederacy loss in the Civil War, African Americans while not kept as slaves were to be second class citizens. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was one of these such citizens. So where then must we ask in modern battles for civil rights are the voices of Asylum Seekers, First Nations peoples and yes, Sex Workers? If we truly believe in the democratic ideal of Nothing About Us Without Us, the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy. Then where are the loud voices in public, in the media and policy circles of the three “other” groups that I mentioned?
The answer is these groups of “others” are deliberately shut out and the air that would be a space for their voices taken by others. As Liz Thompson brilliantly pointed out in regards to speakers at protests against the treatment of Asylum Seekers “Where is the invitation to the delegates, the resisters and those who brought down Woomera and Baxter from within last time, some of whom are pretty easy to find with a phone call to @RISErefugee.” The answer, as I believe Liz also suggested, is too many non-“others” are speaking and filling the space that is most desperately needed to be filled by the “others”. Would there have been as much impact from Dr King’s famous “I Have a Dream” Speech if it had been delivered by anyone but an African American? Of course not.
Even those of us who advocate on behalf of “others” are not always from that group. In fact in the current Asylum Seeker debate virtually nobody is and thus the power of their words is not only not felt, it is never even heard. Our role as advocates should never be to gain attention for ourselves, never raise a dollar for our own need and to always to lift our clients up above us so that they may be seen and they may be heard. The Indigenous warriors of Chiapas Mexico, the Zapatistas of EZLN have a motto – Para todos todo, para nosotros nada! “For everyone, everything. For us, nothing” They are the “others” but as advocates they know that it is everyone they represent that should be the beneficiaries of their struggles. And the name of their struggle? The Other Campaign.
The very purpose of creating this blog was to promote positive messages about Indigenous Australia, to give air to the issues that matter and to refuse the mainstream media and many politicians very real attempts to paint all things First Nations Peoples as bad, lazy and lacking. Yet despite the efforts of many even the ABC continues to ignore the importance of Nothing About Us Without Us. I have repeatedly contacted The Drum and Q and A over their lack of Indigenous representation, especially when discussing issues directly related to Indigenous people… And heaven forbid be allowed to discuss other issues as well. These inquires conducted formally and often by social media are met with a sort of glazed stupidity, as if this was obvious to nobody and who are these Indigenous experts they could be having on their programs anyway?! If journalists and producers of our National Broadcaster do not know the very existence of Indigenous people of excellence then they have no place in those positions. This is the shutting out of “other” voices, whether deliberate or from sheer ignorance the impact is the same. And now it appears the most IndigenousX of all media, Tracker Magazine, will be shut down. Why? Well we the public have been told a number of reasons, but my opinion is that it is because they have dared tell the truth as “others” about “other” issues.
And if there has been a long tradition of abuse against tribal people and those fleeing war and famine the same has been true for those working in the “oldest profession in the world”. When was the last time you heard a Sex Worker speak in the mainstream media about the issues effecting them? The answer is almost never and if they do then this group “othered” by our society must hide their identity or change their name. I offer no opinion here on sex work or the sex industry, but when people stand up and speak about what is best for sex workers by calling them “prostitutes” I must question their motive. When they are told they are priviledged to even have a voice if they manage to get one I say this is wrong. And when a sex worker is brutally murdered in our cities streets and the crime goes unreported by the media I say that this group of “others” has been relegated to second class citizens, demonised and criminalised and is it any wonder that the Scarlet Alliance, the national peak sex worker organisation in Australia, has adopted the motto Nothing About Us Without Us.
Just as I have offered no opinion on the Sex Industry I will not offer an opinion in this article on the struggles of Asylum Seekers and First Nations Peoples other than to say the present conscience of our society that is surely unacceptable while these struggles continue will remain our future until voices are given to the Dr King’s of these issues. The Dr Kings who are currently behind wire on Manus, who live in the many First Nations of this land and those whose work is Sex. “Others” are not issues, nor are their advocates them. Taking away nothing from their work but Al Gore is not a climate scientist and Sarah Hanson Young is not an Asylum Seeker. They are political advocates who can be either respected or lampooned, but only the true human face of these struggles can show us their humanity when they are given the space and the voice to do so. Whether it is the MSM and Politicians who deliberately shut out these voices or the advocates who unwittingly take away the air that belongs to others, we will be a community not with a scar, but a gaping wound in the very fabric of who we are until these voices are heard.
It is easy to be painted as a Queue Jumper, a Savage or just another Dead Hooker when you are not given a voice, when your face is never seen and your humanity never acknowledged. When will this end….
“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”